BCAB #1834

November 21, 2019

Re: Occupancy Classification

Project Description

The project is an existing unsprinklered two-storey building, approximately 390 m² in building area, proposed to be altered under Part 3 of the Building Code. The building contains an existing upholstery repair shop and there is a proposal for tenant improvement to add a brewery on the first storey, and lounge on the second storey. The subject of this appeal is limited to the major occupancy classification of the upholstery repair shop and the brewery. A combustible content survey and analysis has been completed by a registered professional for the upholstery repair shop and brewery.

Applicable Code Requirements

Sentence 3.1.2.1.(2) of Division B and the definitions of low-hazard and medium-hazard industrial occupancies in Sentence 1.4.1.2.(1) of Division A of the British Columbia Building Code 2018.

3.1.2.1.(2) A building intended for use by more than one major occupancy shall be classified according to all major occupancies for which it is used or intended to be used.

Low-hazard industrial occupancy (Group F, Division 3) means an industrial occupancy in which the combustible content is not more than 50 kg/m² or 1 200 MJ/m² of floor area.

Medium-hazard industrial occupancy (Group F, Division 2) means an industrial occupancy in which the combustible content is more than 50 kg/m² or 1 200 MJ/m² of floor area and not classified as a high-hazard industrial occupancy.

Decision being Appealed (Local Authority’s Position)

The local authority has determined that the major occupancy classification of the upholstery repair shop and proposed brewery is a Group F, Division 2 medium-hazard industrial occupancy. Classification is based on the definition of major occupancy which means “the principal occupancy for which a building or part thereof is used or intended to be used…”. The combustible content survey and analysis provided by the registered professional recommends a letter of commitment be provided to the authority having jurisdiction in order to maintain the combustible content loads of the upholstery repair shop and proposed brewery. The authority having jurisdiction is not prepared to accept a letter of commitment from two separate business owners since the local authority has no control measure to ensure the combustible content limit is adhered to for the life of the building. Neither can the survey provide certainty that the combustible levels will remain under the quantities specified for the Group F, Division 3 classification. In addition, the local authority claims that breweries in the region have been classified as Group F, Division 2 medium-hazard industrial occupancies.

Appellant's Position

The appellant maintains that the major occupancy classification of the upholstery repair shop and proposed brewery is a Group F, Division 3 low-hazard industrial occupancy. The combustible content survey and analysis provided by a registered professional show the combustible content of the upholstery repair shop and proposed brewery to be less than 50% of the permitted combustible content for a low-hazard industrial occupancy. Respecting the authority having jurisdictions’ concern for ongoing compliance, this is not a Code requirement for determining occupancy classification.

Appeal Board Decision #1834

It is the determination of the Board that the appropriate major occupancy classification of the upholstery repair shop and proposed brewery is a Group F, Division 3 low-hazard industrial occupancy.

Reason for Decision

The combustible content survey and analysis provided by the registered professional identifies that the combustible content in the subject areas is well within the permitted limits for a Group F, Division 3 low-hazard industrial occupancy. Additionally, based on the appellant’s identified intended use, the proposed major occupancy classification complies with Sentence 3.1.2.1.(2).

The Building Code is not the appropriate document to ensure the appropriate use and combustible content load limits are maintained. The local authority is enabled through other legislations and regulations to monitor ongoing compliance.

Ultimately, it is the building owner’s responsibility for maintaining compliance.

Lyle Kuhnert

Chair, Building Code Appeal Board